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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Everywhere Mag and the Arrival of the User Generated Magazine

As someone passionate about travel and the travel industry, I pay a lot of attention to sites that are out there.  Travel has long been an active industry online, whether you talk about people's behaviour with increasingly booking travel online, or the slate of review and opinion sites that let people share their opinions about travel destinations. From Yelp to Driftr to Dopplr there are new travel sites that let you do just about anything you want and they are all great ... yet none have quite found the right formula to harness the one thing that travel enthusiasts like me all have in common: a passion for talking about travel and sharing my experiences.

Imb_everywheremag Sure, I could post a review on Yelp or publish my own travel blog - but what about something a bit more ... substantial?  Something that I get a bit more credit for.  Travel magazines are usually substantial in that way because they do manage to capture the wanderlust that characterizes many travel enthusiasts and offer a real experience you can hold in your hands.  The problem is, very few of them build on the great content being created by individual travellers online because they have a professional editorial staff to do it for them.  Everywhere Magazine is a publication composed entirely of user generated content.  Every month, the editors select the best articles and photos (based on their editorial team and a system of voting on their website) and lay out a new magazine. This is brilliant for a number of reasons, but most specifically the costs they save on hiring a staff of writers and paying their expenses is put into the production of the magazine which is every bit as professional and beautiful as any other travel magazine likely to be on your coffee table. 

I joined the community and have several ideas for articles that I am just itching to write about, because they relate to places or things that I experienced and am passionate about, or tips for travelling better.  Either way, it will be interesting to see if this model of a completely user generated magazine could work in other industries.  Is this unique to travel because of the passion people have for writing and photography in this category, or could it work for any industry?  Anyone seen other examples?

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Comments

This kind of reminds me of Townhall Magazine, where much of the content is user generated.

About 6 months ago I was discussing this very opportunity with a few colleagues in the "2.0" space with the idea being - a publication of the leading articles of the week.

Needless to say, it didn't go anywhere.

The line that we uncovered was this - magazines offer a nice, analog, not quite breaking news, but often higher quality content than blogs. Magazines have a place in the media-sphere, but I don't know that UGC belongs in print. UGC offers personality and timeliness, magazines offer quality and tactility. There is an overlap, but 99 percent of the blogosphere is, to my opinion, unpublishable.

Can I expand a little about User Generated Content?

User generated content (UGC, often hyphenated), also known as Consumer Generated Media (CGM)[1] The active, participatory and creative audience is prevailing today with relatively accessible media, tools and applications, and its culture is in turn impacting mass media corporations and global audiences.

The OECD has defined three central characteristics for UGC:

1. Publication requirement: While UGC could be made by a user and never published online or elsewhere, we focus here on the work that is published in some context, be it on a publicly accessible website or on a page on a social networking site only accessible to a select group of people (eg, fellow university students). This is a useful way to exclude email, two-way instant messages and the like.
2. Creative effort: This implies that a certain amount of creative effort was put into creating the work or adapting existing works to construct a new one; i.e. users must add their own value to the work. The creative effort behind UGC often also has a collaborative element to it, as is the case with websites which users can edit collaboratively. For example, merely copying a portion of a television show and posting it to an online video website (an activity frequently seen on the UGC sites) would not be considered UGC. If a user uploads his/her photographs, however, expresses his/her thoughts in a blog, or creates a new music video, this could be considered UGC. Yet the minimum amount of creative effort is hard to define and depends on the context.
3. Creation outside of professional routines and practices: User generated content is generally created outside of professional routines and practices. It often does not have an institutional or a commercial market context. In extreme cases, UGC may be produced by non-professionals without the expectation of profit or remuneration. Motivating factors include: connecting with peers, achieving a certain level of fame, notoriety, or prestige, and the desire to express oneself.

Mere copy & paste or a link could also be seen as user generated self-expression. The action of linking to a work or copying a work could in itself motivate the creator, express the taste of the person linking or copying. Digg.com, Stumbleupon.com, leaptag.com is a good example where such linkage to work happens. The culmination of such linkages could very well identify the tastes of a person in the community and make that person unique through statistical probabilities.

I almost threw the magazine out while trying to unload some of the surprisingly enormous amount of paper handed out at SXSW. I held on to it to look at later and was pleasantly surprised, actually. The photos and comments are beautiful. I think there IS a place for it.

Hi Rohit! I'm the editor of JPG, Everywhere's sister publication. Thanks for the review!

Here's a fun fact regarding our current submission stats on JPG: for the last issue we received 16,000 photos and picked under 100 for the magazine. Less than the one percent that Jon Burg mentioned above, and for that reason and others, very high quality.

In response to our high submission rates we have implemented lots of programs on the JPG site to recognize and encourage the talented people that don't make it into the issue -- outtakes, photo challenges, featured members, etc.

Jon - good point on the timely nature of UGC and in general I agree with you. The interesting thing about Everywhere, though, is much of the content is about destinations. I would argue that part of the reason the magazine works is because of the category it is in. The articles there don't expire in relevance after a few days in the way that a blog post about Zuckerburg's interview at SXSW might ...

Laura - Thanks for your comment, it is really interesting to hear about the volume that you receive and the quality that it produces. I think photography is one of those spaces as well where amateur photographers are yearning for some recognition for their passion. I'd put myself in the same category and have a link to my "professional portfolio" hidden far down on my sidebar. Now I'm inspired to try to submit a few photos for your next issue!

I've not seen Everywhere yet, but the concept is intriguing. I think there are many subjects with passionate consumers who are not satisfied with the current media landscape where this could work: Music, art, niche sports as some examples.

Hi Rohit, I'm Todd Lappin, the editor of Everywhere (and Laura's colleague). Thanks for the blog post, and a few quick comments...

1) While cost-savings are certainly a nice side-effect of creating a travel magazine this way, from where I sit, the most important benefit is the scope and authenticity that we get by allowing our readers to create the stories. No paid junkets, dutiful surveys, or generic comments about "lands of many contrasts" for us... what I love best is the fact that our stories drip with the passion and enthusiasm that only comes from real travelers who spent their own money to have the travel experience they wanted to have.

2) For the curious, you can also view a complete pdf of Everywhere, here:

http://everywheremag.com/issues

The print version is much nicer to hold in your hands, obviously, but the online version allows you to get a sense of how the magazine looks.

3) Rohit, CONTRIBUTE! Can't wait to see what you send us.

Many thanks,

--T-->

Todd,

Thanks for your comment - I actually have the perfect idea for an article ... just need to find the time to write it and add it. But you're right that the most powerful benefit of this model is the passion that you get from all your articles from real people. I must admit, the other thing that I found surprising was just how high the production quality of the magazine was. You're not just taking contributed content and publishing it, you're doing it in style and giving contributors something they'd be proud to hold in their hands or show to friends and family. I suspect that is also a major factor in the word of mouth travelling around the mag. Obviously, I'm a fan. Let me know if I can do more to help you get the word out, and look for my contribution hopefully sometime soon!

Wow, I'm thoroughly impressed by this idea. I'm surprised I've never heard of it. I used to host escorted tours in Turkey, Portugal, Venice, Egypt, etc. and have a lot of great stories and such I'd love to share. Is the content more anecdotal or is it geared toward selling vacations and such? And most importantly, where can I get more info or a copy?

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